Sunday, June 28, 2009

Quantum Zeno's Paradox or Quantum Zeno Effect

Zeno's had a number of paradoxes, but the one I mean here is - there is an arrow flying through the air. It has to be somewhere. Let's say it is a one foot from a certain tree. Well, if it is one foot from the tree, then it is at rest there, since it is no where else. If it is at rest, it is not moving, therefore motion is impossible.

In the atomic world, observations can affect the behavior of atoms, just as Zeno's detailed examination of motion seems to make the arrow stop.

Observing an atom with a photon or a radiowave disrupts the atom, and prevents it from evolving into another state. This notion is called the Quantum Zeno Effect.

In the quantum mechanical jargon, observation collapses the collapses the wavefunction to the pure eigenstate of the measurement. Evolution between states follows an exponential distribution, which can be expanded in a Taylor series for short times. At sufficiently short times, the leading terms show that the probability of changing states is reduced. More physically, the atoms starts out in a defined state, and displacement from that state is proportional to time squared, as if it were on a random walk through configuration space.

In 1997 this was observed at NIST in beryllium atoms, but they were unable to measure the beryllium sufficiently fast to keep it from reacting - in that case relaxing to a ground state.

Wayne Itano has shown that this using a very simple quantum mechanical argument. Practically one can't measure it fast enough to stop a reaction, but you can slow it down. That is shown in the figure above. The first calculation is a Taylor series expansion for short times, and the second calculation is the same but factoring in that the actual experimental observations have a duration. "n" is the number of observations in a period of time.

This shows that, perhaps strangely, measuring something by hitting it with a low energy photon is enough to slow its reaction rate. This leads one to believe that there is something real about "collapsing a wave function," because then the atom takes longer to get to a different state.

As with the previous post, I am concerned with the book Biocentrism by Lonza on my other blog. Lonza's point is that hitting a beryllium atom with radio frequency pulses is "observing it," and the mental energy of the "observer" is part of the process. Itano points out that measuring is not the same as observing.

All that is necessary for Itano's theory is that radio frequency pulses be shot at the beryllium atom. No one needs to measure what fraction of the radio frequency pulses are absorbed, and no person needs to think about it. For this effect to work, all that is necessary is for the quantum state of the beryllium to be re-set.

Secondly, poetic language about preventing a nuclear explosion by thinking continuously about stopping it is not called for. It is a great heroic image though. The essential part is not the thought, but rather the irradiation of the constituent nuclear fuel with probing electromagnetic radiation.

I tend to think the metaphysics is getting carried away with itself.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Concentric Spherical Waves as a Model for Elementary Particle

Milo Wolff is promoting the idea that all particles are couples of an inward bound wave and an outward bound wave. (Dr Milo Wolff, 1990)

Outbound wave

+Inbound wave =

Standing wave

He wrote this article on the subject: The Wave Structure of Matter - How Waves form 'Particles'. The figures are from that page.

"The Wave Structure of fundamental Particles evolved over five years. It began with a simple speculation that waves in Space could explain the de Broglie wavelength. It continued to agree with more laws and observations than I first expected and I was amazed. The 'Particle' is two identical spherical waves travelling radially in opposite directions so that together they form a spherical standing wave. The wave which travels inward towards the center is called an In-Wave, and the wave travelling outward is an Out-Wave. The nominal location of the ‘Particle’ is the Wave-Center, but as must be true for any charged Particle, it has presence everywhere in Space because the charge forces extend throughout the Universe."

Here is another posting on the same topic.

It is interesting. I like how the waves would have a very large size in that the outbound wave extends far from the center, and still have a very dense center that could interact with matter.

My issue with this is what creates the inbound field from nothing in the distant outside space. It is a cool idea, but it needs some work.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Quantum Reality: the Bell Inequalities and Realism

As you may know from my book site, I have been reading Biocentrism by Lonza, and in there he asserts something like reality does not exist until someone is there to observe it.

As evidence he points the deviation of quantum mechanics from classical opitcs in a class of optical experiments, which I will call the Bell Inequalities (Bell, Physics 1:3 (1964) 195-200) further expanded by Leggett (Leggett, Found. Phys. 33:10(2003) 1469.

I have not yet made it through Leggett, but I am happy to say I found a simplified version of Bell by J. H. Eberly (Eberly, Am J Phys 70:3 (2002) 276-279) -- this is easy to read and I recommend it. One can go through the whole derivation in a few minutes and then try to figure out where the key assumptions are.

Many people come away from this with something like the Copenhagen Interpretation that begins with Zen-like challenges to causality and it is this springboard that Lonza uses to build Biocentrism. Others use it to assert that some force is causing distant objects to behave in a coordinated way; non-locality in the jargon.

I am going to assert this is all turning on a conceptual problem that early 20th century physicists seem to have with wave/particle duality. I may be old, but I am young enough to have been brought up with quantum mechanics, and I have always thought that this wave/particle distinction was false.

In the tests of Bell's Theorum, Bell counts the photons like particles, but the photons route themselves through the polarization detectors like waves. The problem is that the photons are neither particles nor waves. Bell says the photons go through one polarization filter or its complement, but that is false, the photon goes through both.

Stop thinking that photons need to be one place or another. The photon in its wavelike character can do both. Photons are fuzzy objects that have both wave and particle character.

Rather than abandoning Reality, Causality, Locality or other central notions of physics and philosophy, it seems much simpler to say that photons are both particles and waves. Stop counting them like particles.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Corporate Farms, Family Farms in the USA

We have all heard about the disappearance of the family farm, and now there is the drumbeat of publicity leading to the new documentary "Food Inc. While there are some horror stories, generally, the family farm is not being displaced by corporate farms like Mao's Great Leap Forward. I spent a few minutes looking up the numbers.

This is data from the US Dept of Agriculture, showing that during the 17 years from 1990 to 2007, that the average farm has increased in size by 4.4%. This is hard to get upset about. Click the chart to enlarge it. Read this report for more.

Another USDA report shows that the number of farms with over 2000 acres has increased from 3.4% to 3.6% in the decade ending in 2007. There just does not seem to be that many giant farms out there, and their number is not dramatically increasing.

I graphed out the number of farms from the above report. Here it is as a number and as a percentage. The number of corporate farms just does not seem alarming to me.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Alchemy of Air

The Alchemy of Air by Thomas Hager is about Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch. Haber was the professor that discovered that nitrogen in the air could be made into fertilizer and later into gunpowder. Carl Bosch was the industrial chemist, instrumental in the ascendancy of BASF, who did this in industrial scale. In creating synthetic fertilizer they doubled the productivity of agriculture, ended famine, enabled many more people to be born, and quite simply changed the world.

As with so many innovations, it had negative consequences too. The same ammonia made in these plants was used to make gunpowder and other explosives first in WW1 and then in WW2. Ammonia was important during WW1 when the British cut off access to nitrate in Chile. In WW2 the same situtation applied to petroleum, which Germany did not have. They made synthetic gasoline from coal.

When BASF purchased Johnson Polymer, I heard anti-Nazi grumbling from bitter co-workers. They I think unfairly thought that BASF was deeply involved in WW2 war crimes. In this book, BASF was more central to the war effort in WW1. In WW2 BASF was part of the cartel, IG Farbin, and as mentioned below, the synfuel effort was begun before the ascendency of the Nazi Party. After Bosch was removed from the chairmanship, IG Farbin did become a party to some war crimes, and several of the directors were convicted of war crimes. The BASF reconsistituted after the War. I recall meeting some guy who demanded to know if the Bosch Family still controlled BASF. I told him that I had only been in the company for a few months, and to leave me alone.

Haber was central to the use of chlorine as a war gas in WW1, and Bosch was central to the synfuel effort that literally fueled the German war machine win WW1. However, Haber was Jewish, and the synthetic fuel effort was begun for the Wiemar government. The Nazi's simply expanded it during the war. Bosch was gradually relieved of his government posts during the Nazi regime.

Bosch believed that cheap petroleum would run out in the 1930's, and people would need his gas. Obviously & ironically, people are still building making synthetic gasoline in anticipation of the world running out of fuel.

As someone who works at BASF, we are proud that innovation like ammonia were done at BASF, and BASF still has an ammonia lab that does innovative work.

It also discusses the early age of the chemical industry when it was possible to change the world with fairly basic innovations. The world does not get new chemical innovations like that any more; perhaps it does not need them. The alphabet of basic chemicals has been the same for the last sixty years.

More: I need to nitpick the title. I know we Moderns like to identify with the Wizard-like Alchemists, but actually the alchemists were opponents of the academic chemists that were the founders of the science of chemistry. They needed to drive the mysticism out of chemistry to make progress. Alchemy is far more romantic, but actually Bosch and Haber were chemists not alchemists. Hager is a historian of science and should have known that. [Thomas Hager points out in the comment below that the title refers to the quote in the preface by Goethe.]

Monday, June 15, 2009

Skinny Canadians

I spent the day in Toronto doing a sales seminar. I was taken with how the people were thinner there. Toronto is not far away -- its just a few miles from Buffalo and driving distance from Detroit. 

Toronto is a fairly cosmopolitan city, but it is more Americanized than most of Canada too. I was used to Europeans being thinner, but I was surprised. My impression is that Canada is like America, but metric. Well, not exactly. 

When I got back to DTW Detroit Airport, and I looked at a gateful of chubby Americans. I thought, "Wow, these people are even fatter than I thought." Then I noticed it was the flight to Las Vegas. 

The above graph are from the OECD Health Databook. 

The one of the left is the percent of people with over 30 in body mass index. The one of the right is the obesity rates in different countries -- captions in Spanish. 

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The FutureGen Coal Gasification Project is Back!

Friday (12 June 2009) Obama's Department of Energy funded the FutureGen project, albeit a less ambitious version. One billion dollars from the economic stimulus bill will supplement the private funding. The new plant will gasify coal, separate the carbon dioxide, and pump that into a deep saline water layer under the plant. I went through coal gasification in January -- see this post for the whole story and a diagram.

The original plant was going to put 90-100% of the carbon dioxide underground, but the new version will sequester 60%. They justify the scope-change by saying that this is the first plant of its kind, and they need to learn how to do it. In the past, people said the gas separation after the coal gasification was going to be trivially easy, but it seems that was an exaggeration.

After Bush's DOE defunded the project due to expense, the FutureGen Alliance did not disband. It is an alliance of eleven companies seven American, one Chinese, one British, and two Australian. Illinois politicians revived the project because it will be sited in Mattoon Illinois near Springfield.

Coal gasification is one of the most practical of the alternative energy technologies. Carbon sequestration might become important, but as mentioned below in my post on methane, I am overwhelmed by the magnitude of the greenhouse gas problem. The quantities are just so large.

This project is important because someone needs to build the first plant before any group of commercial investors will do so. This group will work through the problems and give people something to copy.

There are currently four commercial-scale IGCC plants operating in the US today, and they were all developed with government funding. I got this table from the State of Nevada air pollution site. I can't find the authors. The Polk and Wabash plants are models for the FutureGen plant.

If we are going to have an industrial future when petroleum runs out, we are going to need coal. Coal gasification represents a smart technology to do that without the dirty coal soot that plagued cities during the industrial revolution.

More: I'm glad to see this funded, but this by the time this money is spent, the recession will be over. This is a mis-use of stimulus funds which were supposed to be for 2009 benefit.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Feds Give $2 Billion More for Michigan's Wayne County!

It is interesting what self-interest can do to one's views. While I never liked industrial policy before I moved to Michigan, having my home value tied to the Michigan economy changes my view of socialism. I love the idea of a GM bailout -- even though maybe I would have liked simple bankrupcy before. 

This reminds me of a discussion with my dear wife about preachers, nee spiritual teachers, who ask for money. It seems they find a way to work giving money to charity into their teachings. I believe most preachers are sincere, but conflict of interest changes the emphasis of their talks. Oral Roberts and "Seed Faith" come to mind.   I just heard today on NPR's Planet Money about how Iranians pay Homps or donate 10% of their profits to the clergy, which is like fundamentalist Christians tithing 10% to the church. (I really liked the Planet Money story.)

Anyway, here is the Detroit News article increasing my increasingly desperate hope of a local economic recovery.

Kalamazoo; Detroit News Lansing Bureau; BY MARK HORNBEC — More federal relief came to Michigan on Friday when Vice President Joe Biden an nounced that the U.S. Treasury is offering the state $2 billion in recovery zone bonds to attract jobs and private investment.
Wayne and Oakland counties and Detroit will be among the top-10 recipients of a recovery zone bond program that will target states and communities that support the core of the auto industry, Biden told a crowd of about 300 at an athletic field behind the Loy Norrix High School in Kalamazoo.
Biden was in the western Michigan city as part of his Road to Recovery tour for the groundbreaking of a $44 million road-widening project financed by stimulus cash.
“It’s not just about rebuilding roads … it’s about rebuilding an economy that can lead us into the 21st century,” he said as cars whizzed by on Interstate 94, near the soon-to-be widened Westnedge Avenue in terchange. “We are quite literally paving the road to recovery right here in Kalamazoo.”
Treasury officials said $260 million is available for Oakland County, $196 million for Wayne County and $125 million for Detroit. The federal govern ment will pay 45 percent of the interest on the bonds.
The money is in addition to $7 billion in federal recovery cash already coming to Michigan.

This reminds me how my hometown Kenosha was after Chrysler closed the old American Motors assembly lines there. No one believed it at the time, but it was the best thing for the town.

Images in a Coffee Cup - Al Rokker by Michael Keen

Here is a picture of a cup of coffee with Al Rokker's face in cappuccino foam.

I think it is funny because sometimes people read think that clouds look like something, or see peoples faces in various places in nature. 

It is interesting that he can get four or five shades out of the different coffee foam. 

This was made by Michael Keen who runs a coffee shop in Denver. He also directs and displays in an art gallery there. Here is a link to his more permanent work.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Greg's New iPod Nano G4 is Non-Responsive :-(

I had been hoping that after my ordeal with my Gen3 iPod Shuffle that fate would smile on my iPod Nano G4, but well, no. It died on my after running Monday morning. It died, dead with no resetting or restarting.

I dutifully recharged it, and in the evening I connected it to iTunes, but was not able to "Restore" it meaning to wipe the memory and reinstall the software. I succeeded in doing that today. However, even after multiple resets, the click-wheel, and the center selection button remained inert and not working. It is worth pointing out that the "Lock" switch on the top worked, and I could make the little lock icon go on and off. I could also restore it over and over.

I could not use the click wheel to do anything. Not even select the language in the start-up dialog.

I called Apple via the site, and they are going to trade it in for me. The are mailing me a box since I don't want to drive 33 miles to the nearest Apple store in Novi. 

I suppose that is good. I wish these iPods would last longer.

I know that I use my ipod a lot, and I really liked my purple Nano, but I don't think I am that hard on them. I wonder what happened. I wonder if it got wet.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Methane and Greenhouse Gases

I came across some interesting data on the sources and sinks of methane in the atmosphere, and it led me into the Greenhouse Gas issue. As most of us know, methane is the number two greenhouse gas, as shown on this figure. It shows the effect of each gas on radiation flux, which is called "Radiative Forcing" in the jargon of climate change. I graphed this from data by International Panel on Climate Change via Wikipedia. Their graph leaves off water, which is more important than all -- which is a little sleazy. 

Different gases have different effects on solar radiation because of their different IR (infra-red) spectra, which is something obvious that I did not know. The UV and visible light shines to the earth's surface, is converted to heat, and then the IR absorptive qualities of the gases prevent them from leaving. This chart shows the absorbances of these gases. The chart is done in frequency rather than wavelength in the backwards format of organic chemists. The data have been normalized to show the locations of the absorbances and not the relative intensities. 

This second chart shows the intensities better. Blue is water which is the most important. Red is carbon dioxide. Black is methane. (This is in nanometers -- a measure of wavelength, so it is backwards from the first chart.)

So what are the sources of methane? Remember when right wing politicians tried to debunk global warming by funding studies of cow gas? Well it turns out digestive gases from ruminants is a significant source of methane, but not the biggest. It is third - called "enteric fermentation" in the jargon. The data is for the United States in 2003 totals 545 teragrams which is 10^9 kg or 10^12 g.

There are natural sources too, and for the whole world the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated 190 Tg or 1.9E11 kg. This is about one third of the US human based emissions. I graphed all of them. I took the US Data and tripled it, which is a quick-and-dirty way of turning domestic data into world data. I find tripling works pretty well with marketing data at work. So the following chart is a global.

The Ranking of Methane Sources
1.  First is the anaerobic decay of garbage in landfills is the primary source. It is interesting to consider if burning the garbage would be better or worse.

2.  The second sources is natural gas systems, and this means that natural gas has some methane in it, and it escapes to the atmosphere. 

3. Enteric fermentation is the methane generated from ruminant animals like cows and goats -- animals with multiple stomachs. One might argue this a natural source, but I think that domesticated animals are a human source. 

4. Coal mining is methane that escapes from the mines -- one might try to define this as natural too.

5. Anaerobic fermentation in wetlands is the first natural source.

Well this is really just scratching the surface, and I have already killed a lot of time on this. I will probably put together a post on how methane leaves the atmosphere, which is also pretty interesting. This stuff is pretty sobering in terms of the magnitude of the greenhouse gas problem, and the very limited means of action available. That is it seems hopeless. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Adidas Running Shoes - My Shoe Review

Lately I have been running six days a week, and I run the vast majority of the miles inside on a treadmill. Only in the nice Spring weather am I tempted outside. Mostly I am afraid of wrecking my knees on poorly graded roads. I could run outside on a nice even track.

I bought new pair of running shoes. I always get Adidas, because they work for me, and because they have a nice over-built heel that protects my feet. I have a bone-spur on my left heel which is not bothering me at all with my old Adidas  -- which are Lifestyle EVA. The white ones below. 

The uppermost shoes is my oldest, and I can't find the name, and the model number is worn off. It has a big heel that extends behind the shoe, and looks like it gives a good cushion. The bottom of the shoe is pretty conventional; as you can see in the picture of the sole. It has a channel for flexing, but the sole is so thick it could never bend there.

The blue shoe is an Electra -- it is much lighter, and I did not like it as well; but I bought a smaller size. The heel is less extended, but the sole has a hollow under the heel to protect the heel spur area -- so I like that. This worked well, and all my newer soles are like that. It is nice and light. As you can see it did wore really well. The rubber in the sole has degraded although it still looks good, due to using it inside only.

The white show is a Lifestrike EVA , and it is quite similar to the Electra with a little heavier top. I think differences are mostly cosmetic. Another good shoe. 

My newest show is a Boston Running Shoe, and obviously it is the coolest looking. The heel has the least pronounced protective barrier on the heel, and the sole is generally thinner. The shoe is lighter too. Just walking around, I feel spritely -- and that does not happen often. I am not sure I am going to be happy with it. The lighter shoe is not protecting my heel as well. The upper is quite thin, and is more of a sandal. The sole has holes in it -- probably just for weight. I can't think that sole holes sell more shoes, but maybe. There really is no reason for multi-colored soles but to look cool in the store.

See the updated posts on shoes here and here